Lee Westwood seemed inordinately pleased with himself and you could understand why. He missed just two greens as cruised over the muddied fairways of Augusta National in 67 blows to top the leaderboard at the Masters.
The running boards of his Rolls Royce were smattered with only a few flecks of brown as he stepped out of its uphosltered luxury and set his well-shod foot on the soggy sward to drink in a few deep breaths of superiority.
Sure, he’d skidded a few times but he’d set down a marker. Or at least, he tried to convince himself that he had as the stragglers swooshed over the line, some sputtering, others purring.
His principal rivals for the green jacket ended the day making running repairs to their machines yet none of them can be counted out, not by a long chalk.
Chief among them is Rory McIlroy, who drove his Ferrari into a tree on the first (double bogey) before cruising down the rest of the back straight in three under.
Even when the youngster came to the chicane and wobbled with some loose tee shots at the 10th and 11th, he dropped just one shot, then threw away another by getting over ambitious at the 13th before slamming the accelerator to the floor on the home straight.
Birdies at the 17th and 18th gave McIlroy a 71 and left him just four shots adrift of his arch-rival. He’d played well only in spurts yet there he was, large as life in the rear-view mirror.
If Westwood was wondering about the whereabouts of Tiger Woods (72), Phil Mickelson (74) or Luke Donald (75), there is no doubt he would have been pleased to see them five, seven and eight shots behind respectively.
Yet it’s McIlroy who will give him more food for thought than most.
Shooting 71 around Augusta National with your B game is impressive stuff and as a man with a major at home on the mantelpiece, McIlroy knows that all the pressure is on Westwood to stay as far ahead as he can.
If Woods can rediscover the swing that brought him victory at Bay Hill, we might just have a Masters climax for the ages.
One suspects that Westwood will need to lap the field to feel comfortable going into the final round. A ‘Roller’ is a great car but not in a sprint finish with a host of lead-foot major winners chasing you down in sleek sports models designed for high speed mayhem.